Review: The German Army Handbook of 1918 (The General Staff)

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The German Army Handbook of 1918.

Issued in April, 1918 under the title Handbook of the German Army in War, this reproduction constitutes facts accumulated by British intelligence work: a topic of mild interest to me, because my own military service was in that field (as my children have boasted, “How many kids can say that their mom was a spy?”)

With information dating from before hostilities began, and as a product of spying and prisoner interrogation during the conflict, it undoubtedly contains errors and omissions. The researcher who may be concerned about mistakes and blanks in the record will perhaps be able to rectify them by examining the photographic and cinematic archives of the war, and the artifacts preserved in museums.

Chapters include:

  • Recruiting and Recruit Training.
  • Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers.
  • The Mobilization and Expansion of the German Army.
  • Command and Staffs.
  • Infantry.
  • Machine Gun and Automatic Rifles.
  • Cavalry.
  • Artillery.
  • Engineers and Pioneers.
  • Air Service.
  • Signal Service.
  • Survey.
  • Transportation.
  • Intendance and Supply.
  • Medical and Veterinary Services.
  • Landsturm Units.

The compilers attempted to be as comprehensive as possible. For example, a mother of three sons may within reason expect to read in the memoirs of soldiers (many of whom were still actively growing, who were hard at work and out in all weathers), complaints about army food, but the reported changes in the composition of the rations over the course of the war, tellingly qualified and quantified the situation, for me.

The text largely consists of charts, tables and written descriptions, but it also includes drawn illustrations (some of which were apparently substituted with more legible computer graphics), grainy period photographs, and a brief index. The reader’s understanding of the virtues and limitations of the work is supplemented by an introduction penned by a modern historian, who also provides suggestions for additional reading.

For researchers, and armchair generals whose interest goes deeper than the typical organizational chart, this is the book to go to, for details about the German Army during the Great War.

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